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The Same Old Bipartisanship: The Hoyer/Cantor Letter to Obama on Israel

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The AIPAC show came and went. But it left as its legacy the Steny Hoyer/Eric Cantor letter urging President Obama to let the Middle East fester.

If the past is prologue, 400 House members will sign it. Phones on Capitol Hill are ringing off the hook.

The letter's purpose is to thwart the president's efforts to ameliorate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to send a clear message to Obama. "When it comes to the Middle East, our guy is Netanyahu, not you. Don't even think about leaning on him when he comes to Washington next week."

The letter tells the president to let Israelis and Palestinians work it all out themselves, knowing that without the US playing the "honest broker" role, they won't. According to Hoyer/Cantor, our job is to serve as "trusted mediator and devoted friend of Israel." Huh?

"No doubt our two governments [Israel's and the United States'] will agree on many issues and disagree on others. The proven best way forward is to work closely and privately together both on areas of agreement and especially on areas of disagreement," it says.

Get that. In areas where we, heaven forfend, disagree, we hug it out with the Israelis. The Palestinians have as much say as African-Americans had on the Dred Scott decision. They are irrelevant and invisible.

There is not one word in the letter that calls on Israel to do anything, not one word about the settlements, the blockade of Gaza, the checkpoints that make it impossible for Palestinians to travel from one village to the next. The letter comes from bizarro world where Israel is suffering under the Palestinian yoke -- a world where Tel Aviv (God forbid) has been leveled and not Gaza, a world where Israelis are victims and Palestinians are occupiers.

This letter is a disgrace. Any Democrat who signs it is undercutting his own president to appease a powerful interest group.

One more thing. No matter how many sign this, no more than 25-30 Democratic House members believe this nonsense. This is utterly cynical, all about fundraising and avoiding flack from lobbyists who may not be able to defeat them -- but can hound them to death.

Twenty years on the Hill taught me that legislators will sign almost anything to get persistent well-heeled pests far away from their office. Maybe it's time for us to become those pests, letting them know that no matter how good they are on health care, taxes, choice, the environment or gay marriage, we will not forgive them if they undercut Obama's Middle East peacemaking.

Read the text. (There is a Senate version as well).